this is not a competition

We are often warned not to take social media too seriously. People often selectively share life events on the good to amazing scale, and leave out the mundane to disastrous. Looking at the social media of one’s friends might lead one to believe that everyone has the cutest, most well-behaved kids; or that they are always getting flowers and presents from people; or that they frequently go to the beach, where they enjoy picnics with elaborate charcuterie platters.

I’m sure this is all very obvious to my readership and to most of my friends, and there’s no need to warn any of you about this; but while I thought I was also above this petty social media envy, I realised the other day that I am, quite possibly, not totally immune.

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from chin-ups to chilli

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about health and fitness goals in which I said I wanted to teach myself to do chin-ups. As we’re approaching the halfway mark for the year, I’m glad to announce that I’ve now managed to do five consecutive, unassisted chin-ups. I’m actually surprised at this because my “training” was getting pretty irregular, and by the day that I actually achieved it, I probably hadn’t practised in weeks.

I suppose it’s like a lot of other things in the sense that practising a number of other things (in this case, push-ups, weights, etc) can help achieve the thing that you think you should be doing all the time (i.e. chin-ups).

Full disclaimer: It’s probably more accurate to call them half-chin-ups, since I didn’t extend my arms to their full length before pulling up into the next rep. Is that cheating? Like people who do push-ups on their knees? Not the same? Continue reading

one more bite

A bite-size post about bite-size food that I still take multiple bites from…

This is kind of an extension to a post I wrote a couple of years ago about my slow eating. I’ve been noticing that there are a lot of bite-size things that I am still compelled to consume in multiple bites. Here is a provisional list:

  • Scallops (possibly my favourite seafood, so of course I’m gonna savour it)
  • Dried figs (I once tried to count how many bites I took, and got to about ten (?))
  • Oreos
  • Squares of Lindt chocolate blocks (or similar)
  • Strawberries (but I will sometimes eat them in one bite)
  • Grapes with seeds
  • Meatballs
  • Fudge
  • Dumplings (apart from the ones that have soup/broth in them)

There are some bite-size things that I will eat in one bite. This is mostly because it would be impractical to bite them (e.g. oysters, cherry tomatoes), or because it would decrease the enjoyment of said food (e.g. chocolate balls or the chocolate you get in boxes – I know people who will eat these in two bites because they want to see the filling, but I think it’s much better to just eat it all at once).

when sharing is not caring (part 2)

[This is a continuation of last week’s post about the environmental impact of ride-share apps and related services]

I would firstly like to acknowledge that it’s very possible that before these food delivery apps existed, people might have just driven their own cars to these places and bought take-away, hence causing an approximately equal amount of transport-related environmental impact. However, I would also like to point out that this is all very hypothetical because this is my speculation and pondering based on the experience of people I know, not a rigorous scientific news article.

Still, to be fair, I recently heard on the radio that some banks might start looking at people’s usage of food delivery apps when deciding whether or not to approve home loans. Guess I’m not the only one under the impression that these things aren’t always used conscientiously.  Continue reading

a burr on one’s mind

I’ve had some important conversations over the last couple of weeks, but this particular question has been on my mind a lot.

It all started when I went for a run one evening, and then went out to eat a burrito. As I finished my dinner, it occurred to me that my house is approximately equidistant between this Mexican place at which I was eating (Guzman y Gomez) and a burger place (McDonald’s), but I always choose burritos over burgers. Whether I’ve had a late finish at work, I need to refuel after a run, I’m too lazy to cook, or just feel like eating out – regardless of the occasion, I have always chosen burritos.  Continue reading

for the love of food (and my mum)

When conversation turns to cooking, I sometimes joke to my friends that I learnt all I know about cooking from watching food-related TV shows. All through school and university, as much as I was an outdoors kid, and as much as I was a diligent student, I watched so much TV. As a teenager, I proudly told people that I just completed my homework during ad breaks, such was my dedication to various programs.

But, of course, it’s not true. At least, it’s not all true. Yes, celebrity chefs and food gurus taught me how to make béchamel sauce, how to cook crepes, and which spices work best together; but they can’t take all the credit for my culinary know-how. As is probably the case for a lot of people, I learnt most of what I know about the fundamentals of cooking from my mum.

Of course, this was always obvious to me. Who else would I learn from? Other relatives, yes, and certain friends, but I grew up watching her cook, eating her food, and asking her questions. But I think it’s only since moving out (about half a year ago), and having to cook more often, that I’ve become so much more aware of the things I learnt from her. And, as with any recurrent thought, I feel a need to write about this in order to release it from the mental roundabout in the centre of my mind.


Things I have learnt from my mum about food and cooking:

Don’t be afraid of hot surfaces, but know when not to touch something directly: As a kid, I used to be afraid of touching saucepan lids (and the steam released when opening them), and of taking hot bowls/containers out of the microwave. Of course, these days, those things don’t faze me. Sometimes I accidentally touch hot pans, and just shrug it off.

How to make the most of scraps and left-overs AKA it’s ok to throw things out, but if it can be salvaged, it will be salvaged: This might also explain my interest in being experimental with food combinations. Sure, the popular trend toward unusual food pairings probably has something to do with it, but my mum’s thinking is more practical for everyday eating.

You don’t always need salt: As far as I remember, my mum was always quite reserved with her use of salt, preferring other seasonings instead. Sometimes eating and tasting something as it is, unseasoned, is good too.

It is possible to clean as you cook: This can be important for staying organised and ensuring you don’t run out of bench space (or spoons).

How to make a simple sauce that will work with almost any stir fry: soy sauce, fish sauce, corn flour; maybe oyster sauce and other things if you have them.

Kitchen scissors are a necessity: This might seem like an odd thing for some people, but I’ve learnt that a good pair of kitchen scissors can often substitute a knife and chopping board (which is particularly good for people like me who don’t like washing up).

The best (and safest) way to cut tomatoes, carrots, onions, capsicum, etc, etc: all to do with making sure the knife doesn’t slip, and you don’t accidentally cut your fingers. She also taught me efficient ways to dice, julienne, and roughly chop vegetables. I was helping with mise en place before I even knew what that was (TV taught me that phrase).

How to segment apples/pears/whatever and peel their skin using a small knife: Somehow, apples and pears seem to taste better if someone has cut them up for you (or if you cut them up yourself)

Good meals don’t have to be fancy: Of all the things that my mum cooks, among my favourite dishes are a simple broccoli and mushroom stir fry, a tofu and mince dish, and marinated/stewed pork belly (although the pork belly dish always seemed kind of complex to me…)

Allow yourself enough time to prepare a dish i.e. know when to start cooking: There’s a good reason why some days she started preparing lunch (or dinner) while we were just finishing breakfast. (When I was really young, this confused me, but it made more sense as I got older.)

How to fix a cake batter that’s a bit too dry or a bit too wet: She baked a lot (still does) and often “winged it” with recipes, so she sometimes needed to adjust the consistency of the batter at the end, just before putting it in the tin and into the oven. She also taught me that I don’t always have to follow the sugar and butter measurements stated in other people’s recipes, as they may be too sweet or too greasy. (I tend not to compromise the butter/oil too much, but sugar I’ll often reduce.)


There’s undoubtedly a lot more that I learnt from her – maybe a lot that I’ve learnt subconsciously and don’t even realise – but I think this is a decent enough list for now. (The list is undoubtedly still growing too…)

Sure, my mum taught me a lot of general life skills/lessons too, but they (whoever they are) say that food is life (and food is love), and I don’t know how long I’d survive on my own if I hadn’t learnt these things from her.